Equal relationships | The Sunday Monday Post

One of the values that I have kept in my yearly integrity reports is:

To make the world better for others.

The world would be boring if I only cared about myself. I’m not interesting enough to entertain myself for my whole life so I look outwards and try to make other people’s days better.

To do this, you can lend an ear and listen to people. To do so without concerning yourself about how to respond in the best way or thinking about the best time to interrupt them.

Another is to offer a hand and help them reach a solution to a problem they might have.

Another is to simply provide good company and care about them the way you’d care about any important person you have in your life. You can be the person who’s always able to make them laugh or make really good food.

The one thing all of these have in common is this:

To treat them as equals.

Equality is important but it’s usually thought of in terms of things like money and making sure everyone gets fair access to healthcare (It has definitely been a huge mainstay of political philosophy).

What about how we view ourselves in relation to other people? This is a much easier starting point for more people to reach the Good and Equal Society but easily overlooked because it doesn’t seem to have a grand impact you can read about in the news.

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I can’t remember exactly why I chose this picture but it doesn’t matter. That dog is having the time of its life and that’s awesome

Elizabeth Anderson, a political philosopher, wrote an article titled What’s the Point of Equality?

She argues that it is up to the government and its citizens to create a society where people have equal social relationships. An equal society is one where we treat others with respect, don’t marginalise, oppress and so on.

Why is this important for me?

Anderson’s argument was in relation to the state more specifically and creating institutions which promote social equality. However, there is an important message for individuals like you and me.

When we treat people like equals, we make everyone’s life better.

And that’s what I love about it.

Seeing the person next to you as an equal rather than someone you look down on with contempt or someone you view as flawless, you appreciate them for both their positives and their flaws.

Of course no one is perfect, but it’s easy to get into the trap of thinking that regardless. Even if it isn’t explicit. Everyone hurts, cries, laughs, smiles at some point. It’s important to make sure that we appreciate these things.


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Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash

A story

I attended a political … “thing” two weeks ago.

…I call it a “thing” because it wasn’t rally but it wasn’t calm. It was bizarre. I’ve never been part of something where everyone is just following one person around getting pictures of a political candidate looking “human”.

Or in a place where security needs to be sassy for no reason. Or in a place where little children present perfect picture opportunities instead of the child just… being a child. There wasn’t much wrong with it. It was just weird, you know?

I decided to go because I wanted to help my dad. I kept on losing him though but I have no idea how because we were in a town centre where the only interesting thing is a KFC and a Subway that closes whenever it wants.

I’ve said this a few times but it was just so weird. But I’ve decided that if I’m ever a celebrity, my bodyguards are going to be a flurry of cute dogs because they’ll distract everyone while I walk around in peace.

Back on topic:

With the idea of equality running around in my head, I decided to talk to people just to talk to them. I learned a lot.

A lady called Caroline spoke to me about her work with people with learning disabilities. She was complaining that she needs to log indecent things about the people she helps (like frequency of bathroom breaks) otherwise her funding gets cut. Interestingly enough, she’s still there and wants the best for them. She wants to take a level three qualification (like an A level) so she can do more advanced work.

She called herself a fighter. I have to agree!

A man called Mark spoke to me about the political disagreements we had. And it was probably the most civil 5 minute conversation I could have asked for.

The child I met, Ruby, was just cool. She has no sense of direction. But she’s cool.

To me, just talking to other people and hearing what they had to say reminded me that listening is an act of humility. Treating other people as equals instead of assuming they’re better or worse than you opens up an enlightening conversation and often makes the world a little better.

Bit by bit equal social relationships are fostered. To me, it also strengthens your personal character and your resolve to improve yourself personally.

To make the world better for others and to try improving your own life, start with an emphasis on equality.

An equal relationship between you and me. You and your friends and family. You and the stranger you see on the train.

A relationship without contempt, condescension, idolisation or oppression. And with that comes a better world for everyone.

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Equality of the best kind…

As always, thank you for reading!

The Sunday Monday Post is a slight stray from my usual style of writing. It’s more of a stream of consciousness on a topic that interests me. My question for you is:

What do you do to make your relationships more equal?

You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook for more updates!

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Sadness | The Sunday Monday Post

If you’d give me the chance, I’d like to talk about being sad. Lost. Frustrated. Depressed.

But first, I want to celebrate a few things.

I have a friend who is currently transitioning (or “transforming” as she now says) and says she’s the happiest she’s ever been. I’m happy for her.

I have a friend who, after a year of multiple applications, crude bosses and near overwhelming responsibility, managed to get a job directly related to her field. I was there when she got the job offer and believe me, her smile was as big as the sun. I’m happy for her too.

Ms Improving Slowly (or Arguably Honest) had a mighty relaxing holiday and a break from all of my terrible jokes. I’m happy for her too.

My dad got a job rather quickly after his previous position ended and I can always see a small pep in his step after things like this happen. I’m happy for him too (although, it hasn’t motivated him enough to use the exercise bike we have!)

There’s a lot to be happy about when I really attempt to practice appreciative joy. That is, taking yourself out of the equation and simply enjoying the happiness that other people are experiencing. To me, that is one of the greatest upside of empathy. While it is often used in the context of trying to help people who aren’t in a good position, it can also be used to celebrate the positive!

I find, when you care about the important intensely, you begin to share the moments of happiness as you do the moments of sadness. And that is OK. In fact, I think that makes relationships that much richer. So much more valuable. 

When you’re around, regardless of the highs and lows, you’ll experience some good moments. Happiness comes along and it feels good.


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LoboStudio Hamburg

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned publicly, but I’ve dealt with depression for about three years now. In that time, there have been many many low moments. Currently, I think I’m in one of those spirals where everything you hold onto seems slippery and you retreat into yourself.

Just waiting for it to pass.

Of course, it’s difficult to imagine that it ever will! Even with the evidence that happiness has come about before, the hill always seems difficult and impossible to climb. Especially with the fact that a lot of my mood is tied to my pain. And that doesn’t want to leave me in a hurry.

In a “recent” post, I asked myself what the purpose of this blog is. What does Improving Slowly mean? The first principle was to accept that we’re all working drafts. That also means we’re far from perfect. And most definitely our thoughts aren’t always perfect, true, helpful or even valuable.

You may have these moments of extreme self-doubt – the same way I do. Doubting your skill set, what you add to the world, wondering who cares about you and asking yourself whether you should even take another step.

It would be best if you do take the next step. Even if it’s the tiniest step possible. Towards a small moment of peace where you are free of continuous self-judgement and vitriol.

I always say when I’m stressed that there’s always time to take two breaths to yourself. While this doesn’t solve my sadness, it helps me slow down and return to the present instead of dancing in the frenzy of the future.

One.

Two.

With time, even if it takes weeks, I begin to remember that sadness does pass.

The depression may stay around but that’s a much larger battle to tackle one step at a time.

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Jake Thacker


Relationships are important. I’m appreciating that more and more.

It gives me the opportunity to remember there’s more than myself in the world. I don’t need to get lost in my own thoughts all the time. I can enjoy the experiences of others.

Or I can help and be helped.

Being lonely is difficult and stigmatising. It’s something I want to explore in more detail so I won’t do it here. However, if there’s one thing to take from this post, I ask that you tell your friends and family that you appreciate them.

If there’s someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, maybe say hello again (you can probably skip the small talk and just ask something interesting – everyone is “good” or “fine”).

And that’s about it. Sadness happens. It also stops at times. Being sad isn’t a defect – it’s just an emotion.

And they pass.


As always, thank you for reading!

If anyone asks, I’ll be alright. I’m just trying to be more honest and show I’m not perfect but making steps to improve myself.

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If you are depressed or anything of the sort, here are some resources (for the UK):

NHS DIRECT
Provides 24 hour access to nurse advice, information about healthcare and about local health services. Contact NHS Direct for help with a current health concern, to ask about out of hours doctors’ services and for emergency health advice.

Helpline: 0845 46 47, every day, 24 hours a day
Websitewww.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

SAMARITANS
Samaritans provides confidential non-judgemental support, 24 hours a day for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide.

Telephone: 0845 7 90 90 90, every day, 24 hours a day
Emailjo@samaritans.org
Websitewww.samaritans.org
SANE
SANE is one of the UK’s leading charities concerned with improving the lives of everyone affected by mental illness.

Helpline: 0845 767 8000, every day, 1:00pm-11:00pm
Emailsanemail@sane.org.uk
Websitewww.sane.org.uk

ACTION ON DEPRESSION
Supports the running of self help support groups in various parts of Scotland which offer the opportunity for confidential local support and contact with others in a similar situation.
Provides an information service offering support and information on depression to individuals, their families and friends and professionals working with people who have depression; a quarterly members newsletter and a range of helpful publications.

Telephone: 0808 802 2020 Information Service, Wednesdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm
Emailinfo@actionondepression.org
Websitewww.actionondepression.org

Please go to Depression UK for more detailed links.

I’m finished | The Sunday Monday Post

Ok, it’s a Tuesday. Sue me.

I’ve been occupied. I finished my Master’s degree last week and I didn’t know how to process it. I suppose I was satisfied with myself because writing my dissertation towards the end became extremely tiring and, quite frankly, boring. A lot of the time was spent on trying to fix small details and occasionally being overwhelmed with self-doubt.

“If I quit, will I get a refund?”

“No. That’s never been the case.”

“Are you sure?!”

“I’m certain – you can’t just get a refund from a course you’re 1 week away from finishing.”


I’ve been asking myself: What is the best thing I took from it?

Aside from the stress, self-doubt, hatred of misplaced commas and overdosing on Pringles, I didn’t know how to process the entire MA. The education was great in parts, and just fine in others. UCL is a nice enough university. London itself is pretty cool too.

My friendships.

The people I met and the relationships I got to experience was the best thing I took from the entire MA.

I often wonder whether that’s just me being overly sentimental or whether that speaks to some craving for attention I have but I’ve dismissed those as my thoughts trying to sabotage my happiness.

I asked the course director, James Wilson, his advice for doing as well as possible. He told us that the cohorts who seem to have done the best and enjoyed their time while doing it were those who had a good sense of community among them.

I seemed to take that to heart and so did everyone else.

We all became good friends incredibly quickly. Even though nearly everyone has moved away again (some across the world!), I’m unbelievably happy that I met all of them, learned from them and just had fun. I believe they all made me better as a person in some way or another.

To all the lovely people who were apart of the MA, thanks for existing. You’re never not being my friends because we’re in this forever.

To everyone else who just read that, I’m not weird, I just like good people, I haven’t kidnapped any of themI just want to stay friends, ok I can’t make that sound not weird. Maybe I shouldn’t have said it.

But I’m keeping it there. I love all of them.


My final dissertation was on illness, ignorance and the society of equals. The main aim was to show how ill people are treated unequally in society and how we might want to rectify that.

I will explain it in more detail in the future. In a more conversational tone. But I learned a lot about my relationship with my own disability (chronic pain). I’ll definitely write more about it in terms of relationships because it’s healthy for me to share my own experiences. After all, I never know who is struggling out there but doesn’t have the words, or confidence, to tell the world their experience.

There were many times when I worried that what I was attempting to argue for (structural ignorance of ill persons experiences) was too ambitious. I suppose I’ll find out when I get my mark back. But I’m glad I gave it a shot. It definitely stretched me intellectually. It invited me to think about what it means to be ill and live in a world with other ill and healthy people.

Illness is multilayered and the questions it invites are tough because they’re personal. One of my “favourites” is whether well-being is possible in illness. Not because I believe it isn’t. I believe it is.

So much of being ill is immensely difficult and it often feels suffocating (if not literally). Asking if it’s possible to live well with illness asks me whether it’s worthwhile trying when things can be so difficult.

And coming back to my friends, it gave me a stronger reason to appreciate that I have them. So I want to become a better friend and rekindle friendships that I’ve let fall to the wayside. That is, of course, if I’m invited back in.


Sorry this has been all over the place. You can probably tell I still have no idea how to think about the past or what to do about the future. Perhaps I don’t need to think much about it.

It’s all been interesting but now a break from academia is calling.

I don’t know what’s ahead of me but that’s OK I suppose. I’ll figure it out eventually.

As always, thank you for reading!

For more updates, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Am I a Fraud? | The Sunday Monday Post

Last year I wrote this:

“I thought I’d start the Sunday Monday Post so I can to talk more loosely about the things I’ve enjoyed within the self-improvement sphere and how I think I’ve improved in the past week (or since the time of the last edition).”

I’m not very good at this whole “writing weekly” thing. I live on a wheneverly schedule, I suppose.

To summarise, this is a far less structured post than normal and a chance to talk about what I’ve found interesting in the past week with regards to self-improvement.


The titular question – am I a fraud? – is a bit unfair because I’ve already answered it. I often believe that I am.

Writing about self-improvement, overcoming adversity (and daily mindfulness tips over on my Facebook page), seems to put me in a position of authority. If I write as if I know what I’m talking about, then I ask, do people believe that have everything under control?

I certainly hope not.

Sometimes I’m like the little kid, who has no sense of direction, crying for my parents in a grocery store. Other times, I surrender myself to death by Pringles overdose or drown in crunchy M&Ms .

One of the reasons why I am hesitant to post is that I feel like my posts … lack sincerity? Aren’t true?  I can’t find the right word. If I don’t always live the advice that I give, is it good advice? Am I ever in the position to give advice about anything at 22?

To tackle this, I try to remind myself of the highlight/blooper reel problem. We compare our bloopers to the highlights of other people. If I fear that other people would think I’m a fraud if they found out my bloopers, what does that mean?

It means that, because I write about self improvement, I have to not only present myself as a person who follows all of their advice but I have to be perfect. Which goes completely against the idea of improving slowly and self-compassion!

I don’t have to be perfect. I’m not perfect. I do not want to be perfect. But it’s OK to give recommendations on how to live better because I’m just here figuring it all out along with everyone who reads. You probably have a personal problem that other people do not know about. I do too. And that’s alright – you can still help others.


Even though the fear that other people think I’m better than I actually am is based on nothing factual, I’d like to break that down a bit. I’m going to share some of the positives and negatives I’ve had in the past month:

The good: 

  • I swam 1.5km quite a few times and it felt good.
  • I finished the first draft of my dissertation.
  • I worked on a summer school and seemed to make a positive impact on some of the students.

The bad: 

  • I didn’t write for the blog as consistently as I would have liked.
  • I also struggled to swim 700m multiple times throughout the month.
  • I broke promises to call friends to catch up.

The ugly: 

  • I’ve been in a lot of pain, nearly every day.
  • I’ve polished off 3 packets of Pringles in a week (and m&ms … I told you.) as a result. Stress eating is something I’ve tried to avoid but it sometimes catches up with me.
  • I’ve been overwhelmed with negative emotions that make me withdraw from other people quite quickly.

Despite all of the articles on self-improvement I’ve written, I still make a lot of mistakes. It’s just part of the process. Social media makes it really easy for us to believe that things are smoother than they really are.

So I’ll try to worry less about whether I have the “authority” to help people. A lot of these articles are also reminders to myself.

I hope you find them helpful too!


Here are a few articles I’ve found interesting in the past week:

And that brings me to the end of the Sunday Monday Post.

How do you manage the feelings of insecurity and helping other people? Does it bother you at all?

As always, thanks for reading.

For more updates, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Here is why productivity doesn’t matter

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Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

One question that has, for some reason, bothered me quite a lot is: what is productivity?

Throughout all the different personal development and productivity blogs I’ve read, I’ve learned a number of ways to be more productive. Eliminate distractions, exercise, don’t have long meetings and so on and so on.

However, I never really took time to understand what productivity is.

Perhaps this is because the first answer is quite mundane.

The ability to produce stuff.

It’s a keystone behind David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system which has sold millions of copies and inspired a host of productivity blogs out there.

The more productive you are, the more stuff you produce or complete.

Is this helpful? Anyone can be extremely productive if you take this definition because you can complete a lot of small, relatively meaningless tasks and say you’ve had an extremely productive day every day. This is why answering a bunch of emails or cleaning the house might feel productive even though you’ve put off something more important.

Simply producing more stuff isn’t a helpful definition in a lot of contexts we’re now in. What about…

The ability to produce important stuff.

This is a bit more focused. If complete more important stuff you’re going to be more productive than the person who just completes a bunch of meaningless tasks, right? For example, if you decide not to answer a bunch of emails and instead write the important report or calculate the important calculation, then you’re producing more valuable stuff.

While we’re getting closer to a more usable definition, we’re not there yet. What happens if the tasks you’re working on aren’t important to you but rather someone else? Am I being unproductive because the ‘important’ goals aren’t important to me?

Possibly. But many of us will work for other people and on important tasks that do not completely align with our personal passions. It’s a normal part of a working life in whatever capacity. The importance of the task depends on the context but then we may want to think in more depth about the kind of context we find ourselves in the majority of the time.

We may think about productivity in personal terms – getting stuff done that’s important to you. Doing this might be quite drastic because we could find that we’re largely unproductive despite doing brilliantly at your job or studies. We do want to make distinction between business and personal productivity because not everyone is at the luxury of being able to quit their jobs and focus on things that are only important to them. But it’s a helpful tool when coming to think about your priorities and how you can ensure you’re focusing on them as much as you can.

However, I don’t want to keep on twisting and contorting the definition of productivity. Working on and creating things that are important to you whether that is in a personal or business sense. This discussion leaves us a more important question.

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Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

Does your productivity matter?

The simple definition of productivity – getting stuff done – is unhelpful. Thinking about getting stuff done in terms of their importance is much more helpful. Yet, the more I think about it, the less I think it actually matters.

In the short term, of course it matters. You don’t want to lose your job or fail university because you’re too busy watching videos on things that barely interest you. In the long term, I think the value of an action might be better judged by its ability to help you live with integrity or overall satisfaction.

Focusing on things that are important to you isn’t good simply because they are productive. Instead, it results in matching the things that matter to you and the actions you complete every day. In doing that, we live with greater presence and a movement away from chastising yourself for “not being productive enough” or “lazy” or “wasting time”.

If we judge something as a waste of time because it doesn’t help us live in line with our values instead of whether it is helping us be productive enough, it helps us do a few things.

First, we stop micro managing our time. Doing this helps us stray away from being overly critical of how we spend our time.

Second, it gets to the deeper cause of our disappointment. We can spend a day with a very difficult problem and not write a single word yet still feel like we’ve done something useful. We can spend a day writing rubbish all day, and feel remarkably unsatisfied with everything. It’s the lack of personal importance that seems to drive this disappointment.

Third, we think honestly about the bigger picture – and make steps towards them. My yearly integrity posts are an attempt to slow down and reassess what is really important to me and how I can mould my life and my days in that direction. Doing this places a useful urgency into my days.

So, if not productivity, what is important?

Seneca complains that

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. Life is long if you know how to use it.

we say life is short yet treat it as though we will live forever. Regularly returning to important values instead of getting lost in thoughts about what is productive and what isn’t, I think, is more helpful overall.

Thinking about productivity is useful but should only come second to thinking about actions that help us live in accordance with our values.

To do this, we have to slow down and remember what is actually important rather than going so fast you’ve been running in the wrong direction for ages.

As always, thank you for reading.


 

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What Does ‘Improving Slowly’ Mean?

In the time that I’ve spent writing about various elements of improving slowly, I haven’t sat down with you and spoken about what it means. I hear the cries already.

“It’s bloody obvious! Rather than improve quickly – improve slowly!”

But I promise, there is more to it. I want to talk about the values of improving slowly and why they’re important.

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Photo by Cameron Kirby on Unsplash

The principles of slow self-improvement

Self-improvement is important to a lot of people. Especially to those who feel bad about their skill set and general abilities. Or to those who want to live happier and more fulfilling lives.

The literature is broad – much of it very good (and terrible, but we can ignore that for now). The experience of self-improvement is not spoken about as often as it could be. Largely because blogs and books tend to give advice (as my blog does too) without talking about what it’s like to actually live that advice.

I started my blog so I could do that but I feel that I’ve strayed from that (or never really started). So I’ve been thinking:

What are the principles of slow self-improvement?

When we challenge ourselves to go as quickly as possible (for whatever reason) it’s easy for that doubt to become more and more intense. It’s helpful to slow down, be mindful and enjoy the process of improving as much as we can.

This brings us to the first principle – We are working drafts

I explored this briefly in the last post on self-forgiveness. When we decide to improve certain things, we do so because we believe it could be better. However, it’s easy to slip into perfectionism without noticing. As a result, we might see how quickly we can learn something (in order to get rid of the deficiency quicker) or become overwhelmed by the task and never start.

There’s nothing wrong with learning quickly if we have the right foundation. If we start with the belief that we aren’t perfect and need to be, learning quickly will not solve that.

We take a mindful breath, assess our intentions and remember that we’re a work in progress. We always will be.

And that’s OK.

With this in mind, it becomes much easier to catch those harmful storylines which can often plague our thoughts.

“I’m not moving fast enough!”

“I’m not smart enough to learn this so quickly”

“I’m falling behind!”

And instead of focusing more on the improvement and being kind to ourselves in the process, it becomes much easier to lose ourselves in the storyline or give up when we realise that learning a language or writing a book isn’t as sexy as we first imagined.

Improving slowly is about improving with compassion.

Self-forgiveness is one facet of self-compassion. There are a many others. Small things such as:

  • Cultivating kinder thoughts towards yourself
  • Allowing yourself to relax
  • Appreciating how far you’ve come and your courage to keep going

In the journey of self-improvement and as a result improving the world, it helps to start from a foundation which isn’t infected with hate. Of course, this takes time – I struggle with it every day. But it’s a worthwhile struggle.

One day I’ll see myself in the same positive light that I see my friends and family. I hope the same for you.

Another important principle of slow self-improvement is a deeper adoption of helpful habits.

When we improve slowly, we spend more time with the habits we want to adopt. As a result, we’re far more likely to keep the habit than for it to be a fad.

For example, a study from University College London showed that it can take an average of to 66 days to form a habit rather than the conventional “21 day challenges”.

Next, we resist apathy and cynicism – and fight against it.

Apathy and cynicism are only around the corner and come knocking when we experience multiple setbacks. We must remember that we cannot give up on ourselves. Especially when it is most tempting. Simply remembering that we can be champions for ourselves is a helpful reminder to remain engaged with the world.

Even in the simplest form. There have been times when all I’ve done is reminded myself “I want to be engaged in my own story”. Then gone back to bed.

It can be difficult, but on reflection I’ve understood it as an act of compassion.

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Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Lastly, we become better one step at a time.

It is better to work with focus instead of attempting everything at once. To do this, we slow down, take a mindful breath, and take it step by step.

Conclusion

This journey of improving ourselves and adding value to the world is a life-long one. Our time is valuable but this doesn’t mean we try to complete things as fast as humanely possible.

I ask that we slow down. Savour our improvement and as a result develop a healthier relationship with setbacks and disappointments.

While we improve, we’ll experience many of our ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows.

And that’s more than OK.

Onward we go to improve ourselves and improve the world. With presence and mindfulness.

We improve slowly.

Here are the principles again:

  • We are working drafts
  • We improve with compassion
  • We spend a lot of time with positive habits
  • We resist apathy and cynicism – and fight against it
  • We become better one step at a time

As always, thank you for reading. If you found these principles helpful, please share! Let me know what you think of them below :)


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How to improve your life: self-forgiveness 101

Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

In my last post, Meditation is a Practice, I wrote about slowly inviting some compassion into the way you treat yourself when you lost focus. For a short while, I’ve been trying to introduce that into more areas and I want to share how that works.

It begins with a surprisingly difficult task.

Forgiving yourself.

I’m trying to lose weight. I’ve been successful in the most important aspect so far (weighing less, obviously) but it has happened a lot slower than I actually expected. I have messed up many many times. If I’m in a lot of pain, I might try to eat the experience away (even though it literally never works) then feel guilty:

I shouldn’t have done that

I’m never going to lose weight at this rate 

Despite knowing overeating doesn’t make me feel good nor is it particularly good for my health, it still happens. As a result, I begin to hurl insults my way without resistance. They are brutal and a lot of the time, I think they are true (even if they aren’t upon honest reflection). It makes me feel bad about the things that I haven’t achieved and dismiss the things that I have.

So I feel bad about everything I’ve done regardless of whether it is good or bad. Obviously, it isn’t very fair.

We are all working drafts

Inviting compassion is pretty difficult to start with. Believing what you say is another question – it’ll all seems fake. Forgiving yourself is an important tool because it emphasises to us that we’re all works in progress.

None of us will ever be perfect but we can all improve slowly. While we do that, we’ll make mistakes, fall off the track and sometimes even go backwards. But there is a cruel voice in our head encouraging hatred because of mistakes that are bound to happen anyway – it is unhelpful and harmful.

To quieten it, we forgive ourselves our mistakes and try again. When we make mistakes, it’s a decent signal that we’re stepping out of our comfort zone and challenging ourselves. That is the path to improving. Not playing it permanently safe and hoping you get things right all the time.

Self-forgiveness creates a healthier environment for us to work and create in. As mentioned earlier, it shines light on the idea that we’re all a working draft. With this mindset, we are more likely to challenge ourselves in the future because we accept the idea that mistakes happen and they are much less worse than we thought.

Rather than improving in an environment of hostility, we improve with compassion – it simply makes the whole journey more enjoyable. Imagine this:

You’re about 10 years old and you’ve been asked to talk in front of the class. You’re nervous and hate public speaking (like most people apparently). You’ve started speaking and make a big mistake – which of the following are you more likely to try again?

1. *laughter from the class* – you hear murmurs of “I’m better than him” or “that was really stupid”. After the class, no one talks to you.

2. Your class is patient. You see encouraging nods and smiles prodding you to continue. After the class, a few people you say well done for talking in front of everyone.

The second (I hope). Even if you don’t get over the mistake straight away, at least you know people don’t care that much about the mistake and those who spend their time criticising you over a human error aren’t worth your time.

I’m not expecting a ten-year-old to get this straight away. But the second environment is something you can create for yourself by slowly silencing the internal critic and forgiving yourself.

Does forgiveness make us complacent?

No.

In a study titled “Self-Compassion and Reactions to Self-Relevant Events: The Implications of Treating Oneself Kindly”, it was shown that it makes us see the world more accurately without all of the unnecessary harsh judgement. You actually become more accepting of criticism and see it as a chance to improve.

As a result, you can have more responsibility over your mistakes, fear failure less and continue working towards your goals with more drive.

Rather than hating ourselves for our mistakes (and implicitly assuming that we can’t get better because of them … even though we “should”) we begin to view ourselves in a more accurate light – a work in progress!

Rather than being welcomed by a growling dog who’s ready to bite every time you fall over, you’re greeted by a friend who helps you up and encourages you to try again.

Who is the only person in your life who is available 24/7 to provide you with care and kindness? You.

~Kristen Neff

Nor does it encourage ignoring mistakes.

When we forgive ourselves, it doesn’t mean that making mistakes is a good thing – rather, they are acceptable but they can worked on. There really is no point in hating ourselves for not being perfect – we’ll never reach that stage anyway.

How do you begin forgiving yourself? 

First, identify the lack of compassion then label it.

When you make a mistake, you might find yourself falling down the similar hole of self-criticism. If you notice the story beginning to play, label it as such.

“I am criticising myself for a mistake I made”

Then you can do one of two things. You can investigate it or let it be then watch it go. I prefer letting it be.

I found it helpful to say a few phrases to begin. My favourite is from our meditation friend, Joseph Goldstein “And simply begin again”.

• “Ok, I forgive myself for that, I’ll try better next time”

• “Mistakes are OK, I’ll try again next time”

• “I’m simply a work in progress – I can improve and I have improved before”

• “I’m improving slowly, not perfectly”

• “This criticism is unhelpful – mistakes happen. They aren’t permanent.”

We observe the initial frustration and notice it slowly melt away with the warmth of compassion. I will warn you, you’ll even make mistakes with forgiving yourself. You can forgive yourself for those too. It’ll become easier the more you practice. The more you practice, the more you can begin to enjoy your path to wherever you’re going.

I’ve said this many times – we’re all just a work in progress. We can improve slowly and improve with compassion.

“Will you call out, “I’ve got this,” and do your very best to be your very best?”

To do this, you forgive yourself for mistakes made in the past and get back to it. Think progress, not perfection.


As always, thank you for reading.

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References:

  • Barking Up the Wrong Tree – Eric Barker
    • For studies on self-compassion and forgiveness.
  • The Daily Stoic – Ryan Holiday
  • How to wake up – Toni Bernhard
    • For the method on identifying and assessing negative criticism.